Do cats deserve a day of their very own in the international calendar? Of course they do. A couple of years ago, wandering art museums in Amsterdam and Haarlem, I wrote about the many dogs that appear in Dutch paintings. I mused that for me, the dogs served as a window into long-ago times and places. Cats are the same. It’s hard to identify with people wearing heavy black robe-like garments relieved only by starched white ruffs and collars. But these same people had pets they loved. The cat above, looking out at the world from the safety of her person’s lap, has the same smug look as any cat of mine. I can understand people who appreciate their feline friends enough to immortalize them in art.
Cats in Dutch paintings are often up to no good. The one above is about to make off with a plucked bird while the unsuspecting housewife is looking the other way.
Cats often gaze longingly at the food artfully arranged in Dutch still life paintings, and they add some “life” to still lifes that consist mainly of dead animals ready to be consumed.
Children have always liked cats. This ceramic pet, complete with a bib and abandaged leg, sits in the now-quiet nursery at Wightwick Manor, a wonderful Arts and Crafts home in England. He looks a little anxious. I have a feeling his broken ear and broken paw happened when he got tossed across the nursery in some long-ago game.
I have a soft spot for all cats, but especially for the calico and tabby varieties. They remind me of the pair that patiently wait for me at home.
Of course I’m always on the lookout for friendly cats on my travels. This handsome fellow was in York, England.
What about big cats? I love them too. The fierce creature above is on an exterior wall of the very grand Pitti Palace in Florence.
Chatsworth House in England has a pair of regal lions who lord it over the Sculpture Gallery. I think part of our fascination with big cats is that we feel we understand them just a bit, especially if we live with their small domesticated relatives. Our pet cats give us a little insight into both long-ago places and wild places on this earth.
In my post “Dogs in Dutch Art,” I quoted a striking poem by David Graham: “The Dogs in Dutch Paintings.” A couple of months ago I received a lovely comment from the poet, who had just happened upon my post. The main reason I keep posting is to remember where I’ve been, what I’ve seen, and what I was thinking at the time. That must be part of what motivates a poet, too.
Posts about dogs in art are at https://castlesandcoffeehouses.com/2013/10/01/dogs-in-dutch-art/ and https://castlesandcoffeehouses.com/2013/10/03/more-dogs-in-dutch-art/
Join me next time for more explorations in the art and history of Europe and the British Isles!